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Christian and other urban legends

Another neat phoney legend:
Punxsutawney Phil and Groundhog Day:

Punxsutawney Phil is a groundhog who lives in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania and is under the care of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. 1

Punxsutawney is a town in Pennsylvania at the instersection of Routes 36 and 119, slightly over 100 km (65 miles) Northeast of Pittsburgh, PA. The name comes from the original Indian name of its location "ponksad-uteney" which means "the town of the sandflies." Fog and mist was present during the morning of 2019-FEB-02. Residents there enjoyed a sunny 3C (37F) on the afternoon.

Phil is the newest in a series of groundhogs in Punxsutawney who have been "forecasting" the weather on FEB-02 over a 132 year interval -- since 1887.

The traditional practice is that at sunrise on this day, members of the club wake up Phil. He emerges from his comfortable heated burrow underneath a simulated tree stump. 2 Depending upon the presence or absense of clouds, he may or may not cast a shadow on the ground:

  • snowflake If he casts a shadow, then there will be six more weeks of winter weather ahead this year.

  • spring If there is no shadow, then we will have an early Spring!

Many people believe that the prediction is based on how Phil reacts to his shadow. But that is apparently not correct. 1 The prediction depends solely upon the presence or absense of the shadow.

On 2019-FEB-02, sunrise was at 7:25 hr (ET). His lack of a shadow -- as judged by the Club -- predicts an early Spring for 2019!

Down through the years, Phil and his predecessors have made 104 forecasts of continuing winter, 19 predictions of an early spring. There have been nine years whose predictions have been lost. 2

Stormfax Almanac, 2 Live Science, and NOAA keeps track of Phil's accuracy. It has been accurate 39% of the time. This is slightly worse than just flipping a coin.

On the bright side, if one were to take the prediction opposite to Phil's, it would be accurate 61% of the time. Your choice!

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. , "How Accurate Are Punxsutawney Phil's Groundhog Day Forecasts?," LiveScience, 2019-FEB-02, at: https://www.livescience.com/

  2. "Groundhog Day," Stormfax Weather Almanac, at: http://www.stormfax.com

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Copyright Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Author: B.A. Robinson
Originally posted on: 2019-FEB-02

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